Sunday, 7 February 2016

Annoying Artefact Photobombs: May "Captivate" but is it Archaeology?

Some people post an incessant series of kitty photos on their twitter account, others what they are having for lunch. The Learning, Volunteers and Audiences Portable Antiquities Scheme posts decontextualised artefacts hoiked mostly by metal detectorists. Several FLOs proudly take part in a weekly bragging "finds Friday" photobomb session. An example of the sort of objects found by others which they show off is this one, a "captivating mount" "found in Lincolnshire:.

But that's it. There is no information for the viewing public what is meant by that very-vague term, what this is a "mount" from (book, bridle, casket, armour, toilet door knob, whatever). There is no information on what it was found with, on what type of site. Neither is its disposition given, whether it is currently in private hands, on eBay or in a public collection. Neither at the time of tweeting does the object seem to be in the PAS database. What is the point of this PAS photobombing? If PAS have time to play the gatekeeper/entertainer like this, then they have the time to use social media like Twitter (only 140 characters a shot, two sips from a coffee mug less) for the sort of public outreach they are paid for:
  1. to advance knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales by systematically recording archaeological objects found by the public.
  2. to raise awareness among the public of the educational value of archaeological finds in their context and facilitate research in them.
  3. to increase opportunities for active public involvement in archaeology and strengthen links between metal-detector users and archaeologists.
  4. to encourage all those who find archaeological objects to make them available for recording and to promote best practice by finders.
  5. to define the nature and scope of a Scheme for recording Portable Antiquities in the longer term, to assess the likely costs and to identify resources to enable it to be put into practice.
Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of the scheme's educational role and thus developing outreach work to those audiences. Posting loose ooo-ahhh finds like this is not any way at all to be doing this.

By the way, take a look at the identities of the people the PAS account follows. Does that reveal in any way a commitment to engaging with the heritage debate or the public at large on portable antiquity issues? That list of 56 accounts is composed mostly of their own employees, excluding the contribution of the "audience" for their work entirely.  

If they have time to titillate,  the PAS have time to reciprocate. 

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